Snowzilla Actually Got My Brother a Better Flight (and blizzard photos)

As I’m sure you all have heard, Snowzilla achieved blizzard status and dumped 20-40 inches of snow on DC (and a ton of other places).  Where I live in Arlington received about 24 inches of snow.  My pictures are below–you’ll be able to see gems like the pizza delivery guy sneaking between two plow trucks and construction equipment clearing the road.  Snowzilla affected my brother’s travel plans to DC–about 10,000 flights were ultimately canceled–but he actually received a much better flight.  I imagine not many folks were that lucky.

My Brother

For his graduation and Christmas gift, I booked my little brother a flight from the Midwest to DC.  I saved up points using my Citi Prestige credit card which gave me 50,000 points for meeting a minimum spend requirement (in addition to a ton of other great perks).  These points can normally be redeemed for 1.3 cents each toward an airline ticket.  If you fly American Airlines, you can redeem the points for 1.6 cents each toward an American ticket.  I typically fly American Airlines so this is a great deal for me.  Tickets purchased using Citi ThankYou points still accrue elite miles and redeemable miles with the airline, unlike award tickets purchased using the Airline’s redeemable miles.

Back to my brother.  I’m still amazed at how well this worked out for him.  I redeemed 10,100 points for a ~$162 flight.  Unfortunately, this flight had a layover in each direction (PHL, CLT) and it flew into BWI.  For those who don’t live in the DC region, BWI is cheap to fly into but it’s difficult to reach.  In addition to using a metro and a bus, you have to ride a train for 30 minutes.  Needless to say, my brother was not happy about the thought of trying to find his way into DC from BWI on his first solo trip.

He was schedule to depart from the midwest at 8a on Friday and arrive at BWI at 1p, with a layover in Philly.  Thursday evening he received an email from American Airlines notifying him that his flight was canceled.  He called American Airlines and they asked if they could reschedule him on a direct flight into DCA that departed at noon and arrived at 1:30p.  With an excellent poker face that tried to contain his excitement, he said that would be sufficient.  At the time he did not realize that route was flown by a 50-seat CRJ (plane), but it got the job done.  DCA is located just a few metro stops from my house and work, so this switch saved him a bus and train trip, plus about an hour of travel.  Snowzilla was schedule to arrive in DC between noon and 2p, so his flight would cut it pretty close.

After arriving in DC, I wondered if we could get American Airlines to switch his outbound airport from BWI to DCA since they switched his inbound airport.  He reported an hour wait for an American Airlines customer service representative, so I called the American Airlines Platinum customer service desk and was immediately connected to an agent.  I explained the situation and within five minutes he was booked onto a direct flight out of DCA.  His original flight was schedule to depart BWI at 7p and arrive at midnight, but the new flight departed at 8p and arrived at 9:30p.  American waived their typical change fees so the above flight changes were free.

You may wonder why I didn’t just book a direct flight to begin with–I have two reasons: 1) I wanted to spend around $150 and 2) I wanted to throw him some curve balls for his first solo trip.  I’ve made that exact trip twice before so I could talk him through any snags that may arise.  The direct flight to DCA cost $280, a mere $120 more than I spent on his ticket to BWI.  Given my brother’s excellent luck over the past weekend, he’s likely one of the only people to receive a better flight because of Snowzilla.

Snowzilla Pictures

Here are pictures of Snowzilla’s progression:

9:15p Friday (~4 inches)


9:45p — the Domino’s delivery car (which impressively operated until after midnight) snuck in the middle of a plow truck motorcade.


1:50p (Saturday) — folks are out shopping at Target and Safeway.  Snowzilla increases in intensity and blizzard conditions begin. (~15 inches)


3:30p — a military-type vehicle gets stuck. (~18 inches)


3:55p — now another truck gets stuck — blizzard conditions continue (~19 inches)


4:30p — blizzard conditions begin to taper off (~20 inches)


5:15p — the blizzard is over but snow continues (~21 inches)


7:50p — tractors clear the road for emergency crews (~22 inches)


10:15p — emergency crews can now safely pass through primary roads (~23)


It’s amazing how many people were out driving in the blizzard despite the fact that their cars were poorly equipped to drive in rain, let alone snow.  This minivan driver is an excellent example of a person who had no business driving in the snow:

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